The expulsion of an embryo or fetus before it can live on its own. Common use often distinguishes between abortion and miscarriage, the former being defined as the deliberate and induced emptying of a pregnant uterus, the latter being considered as the accidental and unavoidable interruption of pregnancy. If deemed a “medical necessity,” the abortion is said to be “artificial”; if induced for purely selfish reasons, it is called “criminal abortion.” However, the distinction between abortion and miscarriage is not made in the Bible; there the terms are used in a broader and interchangeable sense.
Unavoidable abortion or miscarriage may be caused by accident, infectious disease, mental or physical stress and strain, or because of a general organic weakness on the part of the mother. The waters near Jericho were death dealing, causing miscarriages, until Jehovah’s prophet Elisha healed them.—2 Ki. 2:19-22.
Deliberately to induce abortion or miscarriage by artificial means, by the use of drugs or by medical operation, the sole purpose of which is to avoid the birth of an unwanted child, is an act of high crime in the sight of God. Life as a precious gift from God is sacred. Hence God’s law to Moses protected the life of an unborn baby against more than criminal abortion, for if in a fracas between men a pregnant woman suffered an accident fatal to the child, “then you must give soul for soul.” (Ex. 21:22-25) Dr. J. Glenn comments: “The viable embryo in the uterus is a human individual, and therefore destroying it, is a violation of the sixth commandment.”—The Bible and Modern Medicine, 1963, p. 176.
Properly viewed, the fruitage of the womb is a blessing of Jehovah. (Lev. 26:9; Ps. 127:3) Hence in promising to prosper Israel, God gave assurance of successful culmination of pregnancy and the bringing forth of children, saying: “Neither a woman suffering an abortion nor a barren woman will exist in your land.” (Ex. 23:26) As indicated in the prayer of the righteous, on the other hand, evidence of God’s disfavor to his enemies would be their having miscarrying wombs and their becoming like miscarriages that never see the sun.—Ps. 58:8; Hos. 9:14.
Job in his misery contemplated that it would have been better had he been an abortion, “a hidden miscarriage.” “Why from the womb did I not proceed to die?” this tormented man cried out. (Job 3:11-16) Solomon, too, reasoned that a prematurely expelled fetus is better off than the person who lives a long time but who never comes to enjoy life.—Eccl. 6:3.
Among animals such as cattle, horses, sheep and goats contagious abortion, a disease characterized by premature birth, may occur. Accidental abortion due to neglect or disease of domestic animals has also been known since the days of the patriarchs Jacob and Job.—Gen. 31:38; Job 21:10.